After years of experience in the courtroom, Assistant State Attorney Meredith O’Brien finds herself the target of street thugs and deep into uncovering the truth about a serial rapist and killer intent on taunting the police and her. What was the meaning of the black rose? After years of being alone she also finds herself being pursued by her ex-boyfriend detective and a mysterious Atlanta billionaire, not to mention a dog with the intelligence of a four year old. Both of the men are infuriating, persistent and intent on getting into her life, business and more personal places. Surrounded by a cast of unpredictable characters including co-workers, relatives, psychics and bounty hunters, she finds her entire life has gone crazily out of control. Strong willed, sharp-tongued and explosive, she discovers the media is quick to paint a target on her back. Dodging bullets and physically fighting bad guys was not what Meredith envisioned when she went to law school or took her job in the small, picturesque Florida city of Gainesville. Dying prematurely was also not what she had envisioned.
This cozy romantic action thriller is packed with suspense, adventure, comedy and women sleuths fighting crime. This is a detective story with heart and a touch of the paranormal, as Meredith O’Brien applies her brand of the law, up close and very personally. A fine blend of romance and mystery, it follows the drama as police are confronted with crimes against the community and those that enforce the law. If Meredith survives the attacks on her, she still has to deal with her meddling friends and family pushing romance and impossible relationships on her. What’s a girl to do?
This first of the O’Brien’s Law Mystery series is available as a paperback and Kindle eBook.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
In searching for a topic for a new series, I turned to what I know best, the town I live in and the law. My wife is an attorney and has practiced in various roles, including prosecution. They say write what you know about. And so was born the “O’Brien’s Law Mysteries,” where Meredith O’Brien applies her own brand of the law up close and very personally.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I carefully constructed a set of characters that I thought would compliment Meredith, giving her people to play off of, help her and add conflict and interest. The characters are unique, outspoken and very human with faults, back stories and strengths. Well, with the exceptions of the non humans. I love animals and always try to include them in my stories. But even animals have real personalities, strengths and quirks.
A petite woman in her late twenties checked her watch as she hurried toward home. Barbara Foster had just finished a grueling 16 hour shift and was both exhausted and starved. The Florida night was muggy and filled with the sounds the tropical denizens of the dark. Crickets chirped, frogs called and owls hooted in the trees. She parked her ageing car in her graveled driveway and walked to her house. Something scuttled away in the bushes; maybe a cat or a raccoon. Startled, she hastened along her way. The weak glow of a street light was all that guided her feet over uneven concrete long since cracked and pushed up by the burgeoning roots of hundred year old oaks.
Throwing a cautious look over her shoulder, she checked to see if any strangers lingered about as she went up her front steps. Her outside light was off, so it was especially dark on her porch. Bushes and trees laden with Spanish moss veiled her front yard in black. She was certain she had left the porch light on. She always did when she knew she would be returning late from work. She reassured herself that the bulb must have burned out. Just another detail to take care of.
She heaved a sigh of relief as she let herself in the front door. She clicked on a lamp and kicked off her white nurses’ shoes. What she wanted was something comfortable to wear. She unzipped her starched, white uniform on the way to the bedroom. Looking around the living room as she went, she vaguely realized something seemed different, something was out of place. She wasn’t sure; it was just a curious feeling. Her fingers slid along the bedroom wall, searching for the smooth plastic of the wall switch. It was only when she flipped the switch and nothing happened that an icy trickle of apprehension shot up her spine.
There was a rustle and a dark figure stepped forward from the shadows. Steely eyes stared at her out of a one-hole ski mask. Her mind registered the shape of the head, the eyes and a wisp of blond hair hanging out of the wide eye slot that ran across the face. A scream caught in her throat as she heard a mechanical pop and 50,000 taser volts slammed into her body.
Across town, another woman checked her watch and let out a silent gasp. Meredith O’Brian closed the law book she was reading with a tired sigh. It was later than she had imagined. Grabbing up her belongings quickly she closed her office and raced to the elevator.
Her sister was going to throw a fit if she wasn’t on time. Jane was the kind of person, exact to a fault, who expected the world to turn on a dime. Meredith had made a commitment, however, to babysit the kids while Jane and Bill went to a late movie. Now Meredith was wondering why she had ever promised. She had known it was going to be docket day, a day of doggedly standing in front of the judge and giving status reports on each pending case. In addition to that, she had known full well that she had to do a lot of research and preparation for her upcoming trial.
She had trouble saying no to her sister. She always had. She could say no to belligerent attorneys, domineering judges, unrelenting bosses and crazed felons, but not her sister.
By now Meredith had almost reached her car. The sound of her low heels on the sidewalk echoed off the walls of the nearby brick buildings as she raced along. Traffic on the adjacent streets rattled by as the night scene came to life in downtown Gainesville.
She had intentionally parked under a street light, knowing it would be dark when she got through. Stopping under the light, she fumbled with the purse hung over her shoulder, while trying to hold onto a satchel and notes in her other hand. Her life was too cluttered she decided. Too complex, too full of schedules and “things.” As she grappled with her belongings her foot slipped off the curb, sending her lurching against the front of her car. “Shit!” she breathed as her purse slipped from her shoulder and her notes went sliding across the pavement.
“You okay?” came a call from a passing couple. They looked like college students out for a moonlight stroll. The young man stooped to retrieve her things as the girl came to her side.
A small black leather bifold had tumbled out and flipped open revealing her badge to the startled young man. She smiled at his look. She had seen that look many times from people. She didn’t seem like the prosecutor type. Meredith had a look of youth about her that beguiled and confused people. She looked younger than she was. Maybe it was the slightly upturned nose, the large soft gray eyes, or the hint of freckles still speckling her face that did it. At any rate, she was used to the looks. But she was a prosecutor. And a darn good one at that. The other looks she was used to were those of respect from her colleagues, and fear from her adversaries. She always watched people’s eyes. The eyes were the giveaways. The eyes seldom lied.
“Are you hurt?” The girl hovered nearby.
“No, no. I’m fine. Thanks anyway.” Meredith was busy trying to regroup. She slammed her satchel and purse down on the hood of her car and smiled weakly at the girl. Then she noticed there was something wrong. She couldn’t stand straight.
The boy placed her notes and badge in an untidy clump on the hood of the car next to her satchel.
“Is this yours?” he handed her a small triangular object. “Looks like you lost a heel.” He tried not to smile, but it was obvious he took a certain amount of enjoyment in her predicament.
“Yes, thank you,” she took the heel and stuffed it into her purse. “It’s turning into a perfect day. Just a perfect day.” The young lady peered at her through sky blue eyes, eyes so pale and striking they seemed almost unreal. Her face was thin and chiseled with a look of concern. “Will you be alright. Can we take you somewhere?”
“No, I’m fine. This is my car. It’s just been one of those days from hell is all. Thanks for stopping. Go ahead. Really.” Meredith bent and took her shoes off. Holding up the broken one in the light she grinned at the girl, “Never buy cheap shoes. They always let you down. Let you down,” she tried a weak joke, “get it?”
The college couple looked at each other and laughed.
The girl held out her hand hesitantly, “I’m Carol Pewter, a law student at the university by the way.”
“Small world,” Meredith said and shook her hand.
“I was hoping to start interning in your office,” she said sheepishly. “We were downtown eating and I just wanted to take a look at the building, show my boyfriend.”
“Well, we always need help, but we don’t pay. We can give you lots of experience though if you’re interested in prosecution. Look me up if you apply.”
“Is it dangerous?” The young man looked concerned.
“Mostly paper cuts and long hours, she’ll be safe,” Meredith smirked.
The couple said their goodbyes, and then strolled off hand-in-hand.
Finding her keys, Meredith yanked her car doors open, dumped her materials in the back seat and hurriedly drove away.
She was glad she’d taken her shoes off. Her feet felt tingly and alive, the only part of her body that did. The foot pedals of the car did feel strange on her bare feet, but she didn’t mind the roughness of the ridges. It was almost like a foot message, and she needed that badly.
As she rounded a corner her eyes flicked to the gas gauge as it sounded an alarm. The needle rested unrepentantly below the red E line. Had she heard the reminder alarm before and ignored it? Probably.
Cursing, she glided into a convenience store just as her car coughed as if to underscore her negligence. Getting out hurriedly she padded around to the pump on bare feet to find a hand scrawled sign that the pump card reader was out of order and to please pay inside. A slow burn was now building as Meredith kept adding aggravation ticks to her day’s bad luck list. Storming into the cramped store she almost crashed into an overweight, pimple-faced cashier bending over to do stocking next to the door.
Startled, he eyed her head-to-toe. “Hey, lady!”
“I need gas and I’m in a rush,” she blurted, fishing around hurriedly in her purse for her credit cards. “Sorry, I didn’t see you down there.”
“Gee, lady,” the boy smirked as he thumbed at a sign emblazoned on the door. With a tinge of sarcasm in his voice he quoted the message, “No shirt, no shoes, no service. Sorreee.” He cocked an eyebrow.
Meredith cast a shocked glance at her bare feet and grimaced. Then she gave him an exasperated look. Rules! She lived by rules. She enforced rules. But she hated rules, especially rules that got in her way.
Out of the corner of her eye she spied a teenage girl taking advantage of the clerk’s distraction to grab a handful of candy bars and start to slip them into her purse.
Meredith wheeled around and yanked out her badge pouch and flipped it open in front the startled girl’s face. “Don’t even think about it!”
The kid froze, wide eyed and mouth open.
“Put’em back and get outa’ here before I bust your tail.”
The girl scrambled to place the bars back and headed for the door.
“Let that be a lesson. Don’t pull shit like that. You always get caught in the end.” She watched as the teen pushed through the doors and speed-walked away throwing terrified looks over her shoulder.
Meredith swiveled around to face the gawking cashier and wiggled the badge in front of his face. “Gas!”
She smirked to herself as she watched him hustle behind the counter. So maybe she scared the girl straight? Maybe having to stop wasn’t so bad after all.
She’d discovered you don’t always have to arrest and prosecute people to get the desired results. Sometimes a little subtle application of her own brand of law, of O’Brien’s Law, was all that was called for; negotiation, confrontation and intimidation were all good options in her book. If she got pissed, however, she’d go for annihilation, as some of her legal adversaries had discovered. She practiced law with a deft hand. She could be lenient, she could be unforgiving. She could be forthright or she could be cagey, all according to the circumstance. She was the hand of the law for the people, the defender of the piece and the enforcer of justice for hapless victims if necessary. That was her job. That was her.
Checking the time on the car’s clock she again realized just how late she was. As she pressed on the accelerator, the engine pulled the small car along with a lively hum. Her tires made a squealing noise as she rounded a corner, and it was right after that she noticed a black and white cruiser pull in behind her. Instinctively she eased off on the gas. Just as instinctively, she realized it was too late. The cruiser’s lights came on and began their pulsating glare that filled the inside of her car with alternating red and blue bursts. As she pulled over to the curb Meredith heaved a sigh of absolute depression. “What else can go wrong?” she mumbled under her breath as she retrieved her wallet from her purse. Punching at the window switch, she lowered her window.
A uniformed figure bent down to get a better look at her. “I thought that was you, Meredith. What you hauling ass for? Trying to set a new record for getting home?”
“For God’s sake, Fred,” Meredith exclaimed, “I should’ve known it would be you. How embarrassing, to be caught by a friend. What are you doing on night duty? I thought they were putting you on a desk somewhere.”
“I’m too mean for that. They need someone to keep the uglies in line out here. Speaking of uglies, tell that brother of yours I’m going to be watching for him on TV this fall. Best damn tackle Miami has if you ask me!”
“Yeah, I think so, too, but we may be a little biased.”
“How’s that skinny sister of yours, by the way?”
“It’s funny that you should ask. She’s waiting on me. I was on my way to watch her kids for her.”
They were interrupted by the crackle of his radio announcing a code 10-31, crime-in-progress. Meredith recognized the following code for rape.
“I gotta get that. You better go to your sister’s. Take it easy on the gas, though, I don’t want to have to run an Assistant State Attorney in.” Fred laughed and rushed back to his car.
She watched in her rearview mirror as Fred pulled out with a jerk and blasted past her in a stream of colors. As he passed her she saw him wave at her. His siren screamed and he disappeared around the corner.
Fred and Meredith went back a long way. When she had been in law school, he had been the ever courteous campus cop that had been assigned to their building. Working late at night, as was her habit even then, she frequently ran into him, securing the building and making his rounds. They inspired one another. He’d tell her how good a lawyer she was going to make. She in turn, convinced him to try to join the Gainesville city force and get better pay and benefits. She even put in a good word for him with a family friend on GPD because the positions were hard to get.
Late nights, gallons of thick, black coffee and dreams bound them together in a unique way. It was Fred who had re-introduced her to Dan Slade, the tall, dark lieutenant with the eyes that melted her insides like warm butter. The same Dan Slade she had known in high school.
She remembered that day. She’d felt just like she was back in high school, all nervous and awkward. She kept stealing looks at him and kept catching him stealing looks at her. Finally they just broke out laughing, because it was so obvious.
That was the beginning of an affair that just didn’t end in “happily ever after”. But every time she thought of him her stomach tightened and her mind started to go fuzzy. Caught up in memories of torrid nights and sweat soaked beds, her fingers tightened on the steering wheel and her knuckles grew white in the passing street lights.
She slammed her fist down on her steering wheel and shook her head to clear away the memories. She didn’t know why a man so good in bed could be a total jerk out of bed. Why couldn’t they have made it work? He was the most stubborn, unrealistic, diehard chauvinistic fool on the face of the earth — and she had to be the one to find him.
“Your problem is, you keep wanting to wear the pants in this relationship,” he’d told her.
“Wear the pants, wear the pants!” Meredith choked. “Just because I want some say so in what we do and where our relationship is going?”
“Well, the man’s supposed to decide certain things, and do certain things; like open doors and carry bags,” he said.
“Last week I got into a car with you, and the next thing I know, I’m in the middle of some swamp, swatting mosquitoes and eating at some rundown food joint,” she said.
“Look, I’m sorry about the mosquitoes. I’ll have to admit we got nailed a few times standing around outside talking to the boat rental guy. The ‘food joint’ was just old and rustic. I thought it had real atmosphere. I thought a little local cuisine and a canoe ride on the river would be romantic. Excuse me for trying!”
“I personally don’t consider eating Bambi’s mother or alligator tail romantic, thank you. And it’s too late in the season to be out at night in the swamp because there are two million insane mosquitoes waiting to suck you dry.” Meredith threw up her hands in disbelief, “I even know that. I, the poor, lowly female that I am, know that.”
“A man and a woman,” Dan tried to explain, “are like a team of horses. You can’t have them both running off in different directions all the time. One of them has to be the lead horse …”
Meredith pointed at him with a finger shaking with restraint. “Wait just a minute, Tex. Let’s get something straight. I’m no horse! And…and, even if you were a horse, who the hell appointed you as the lead horse? Why can’t we share being the lead horse? Why can’t we just be people? Why can’t you just try asking me before you go getting me involved in these things?”
Dan was not a man of many words, or used to defending himself verbally. He stammered for words, and searched for something to explain himself and them. Finally he turned to her in exasperation, “I don’t know, Meredith, I don’t know how to explain it. There’s something wrong.”
“You got that right.” Was all she said before grabbing up her purse and slamming out of the door.
She had a hard time controlling her emotions about him. She was the one who had said it had to end. He’d taken it just like the jock he was, very personally. It was not a mistake. She could not stand him. And that was that.
Returning to the present, Meredith realized she’d arrived at her sister’s. Her headlights made a sweep of her sister’s front lawn as she pulled into the drive. It was a yard of tall pines, azalea bushes and scattered scooters, bicycles and skateboards. Her sister had always been the family type from as early as she could remember. Jane was always the one playing house, chasing after the boys, reading Cosmo and dreaming and scheming about catching Mr. Right. Meredith on the other hand, was less concerned about men, and more concerned with books, issues, and making money. Now Jane was busy getting ready for a night out, and Meredith was busy rummaging through her back seat for an extra pair of shoes for her tired feet.
She heard the front door screen bang open and a squeal of joy as five year old Heather bounced out to greet her.
“Aunt Meredith! Aunt Meredith!” Heather was breathless as she ran around the front of the car, and crawled up into the front seat. “Aunt Meredith. Aunt Meredith.” Standing on the front seat, she peered around the headrest with a toothless smile that touched Meredith’s heart to the core. “Do you want to hear what we did today? We got a new video game and I killed a dragon. It was a big one, too. I killed it with a ray gun. Do you want to see me kill the dragon? Whatcha’ lookin’ for, Aunt Meredith? Can I help?”
Meredith stopped fumbling around under the clutter and looked up at the little face and gave up the search for the elusive extra pair of shoes. Who needed them, anyway? She picked up her files, closed the car, took Heather’s small hand in hers and headed for the house. As they entered the house, Bill appeared in the hall.
“How’s my favorite sister-in-law tonight?” he said as he gave her a comfortable hug and expansive smile.
“Your only sister-in-law is tired and running behind. I’m sorry. I haven’t made you late, have I?” She dumped her files on the hall table with a thump.
Her sister’s chastising remarks come trailing down the hallway from the living room. “You’re late. Where have you been?”
“Don’t worry,” Bill whispered. “We’re not late at all. She just wants to give you some grief. Hey, what happened to your shoes? Is this a new you? A new laid back Meredith?”
“No, it’s easier to catch the crooks in bare feet. It’s a new department policy. But thanks for noticing,” she laughed. “No, I broke a heel.”
“You can borrow some of mine…” he kidded, “if they’re big enough.”
“Big enough! You are so sweet,” she said. She gave him a good natured jab to the ribs as they entered the living room.
“Don’t beat on my husband!” her sister said from the couch. “He’s the only one I’ve got. Besides, that’s my job.”
“Aunt Meredith’s barefoot,” chimed in an exuberant Heather. “See, Mom, she ain’t got no shoes.”
“Well, I thought they paid you better than that, Sis!” she giggled.
“Well, gosh, I’m certainly glad to be here, folks.” Meredith threw up her hands in mock exasperation. “Why did I come over here, anyway? Let’s see, remind me.”
“To be abused?” both Bill and Jane blurted out at the same time, then looked at each other and laughed.
“You two are so sad.” She pointed at them, “You know what that shows; you’ve been together way too much. You both have the same warped sense of humor.”
Jane stood up and put her arm around Bill. “You’re just jealous, Sis.”
“Oh, go eat a bug,” Meredith shot back, with a certain amount of real feeling. Just at that moment, Heather’s older brother meandered into the room.
“Ken! Ken!” Heather yelled out the latest news flash. “You know what! You know what? Aunt Meredith’s got no shoes and wants Mom to go eat a bug.”
Meredith lost it at that point and collapsed into the recliner with a burst of laughter. “Well, that sort’ve sums it up.”
About the Author:
Sam Berretti was born and raised in the High Plains city of Lubbock, Texas. Cotton was king and oil wells and cattle were always close by. The land was as flat as his mother’s tattered ironing board and Spring was always ushered in with dust storms, tumble weeds and tornadoes. Sam moved to Florida to attend the University of Florida, met a woman who he says was gracious enough to allow him to marry her and raised two amazing children. Sam is an avid naturalist and photographer as well as an author. Although writing started at an early age and took many forms, mystery fiction has always been a favorite.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Link to Buy The Black Rose Print Edition at Amazon
Links to Purchase eBooks
Link To Buy The Black Rose On Amazon